Nearly 1,000 volunteers worked Thursday night into Friday morning counting the homeless population in King County. Leaders of the effort say they are trying to get a handle on the current state of the homeless situation and ultimately identify how they can help.

“It’s not about a complete picture because it is just one night out of 365, but it does tell us a little bit about trends and for the people participating it gives them a refreshed appreciation of what our brothers and sisters are going through every night,” King County Executive Dow Constantine said. “The fact that there are so many volunteers is really indicative of the willingness there is in this community to lean in to help the homeless to help solve the problem of homelessness.”

“It’s cold outside, you think about people trying to sleep in this weather or walking all night so they can stay warm. It really helps bring a greater sense of urgency knowing that people are suffering every night outside,” Adrienne Quinn, King County Director of Community and Human Services, said. “We have a very generous community, we have many people who are working to address homelessness, and we need to unite as one community to try to make sure we are addressing the absolute root causes because none of us want people to ever become homeless.”

“We do an intensive survey after the count, once we’ve identified where people are during the day to gain a better understanding, what is the age? What was the last thing that happened in a person’s life that caused them to be homeless? What are the demographics,” Quinn said.

Ultimately Constantine says they are working to identify root causes of homeless like mental health or substance abuse, while also doing things to prevent people from entering into a homeless situation.

For right now, this count will provide needed information.

“If tonight produces some difficult numbers and stories that are hard for us to accept it is also motivation for us to re-double our efforts to make sure that everybody has a warm, safe place to call home,” Constantine said.